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The Movie Star (David Gulpilil)
, 1985

by Tracey Moffatt

type C photograph (frame: 74.5 cm x 99.0 cm, image: 50.7 cm x 77.3 cm)

David Gulpilil AM (b. 1953), actor and dancer, is a Yolngu man of the Mandalbingu language group, born near Maningrida in Arnhem Land. Raised on Country, Gulpilil was sixteen when British film director, Nicholas Roeg, saw him performing a traditional dance and cast him in the film Walkabout, released in 1971. Subsequently, he appeared in Storm Boy (1976), Mad Dog Morgan (1976), The Last Wave (1977) and Crocodile Dundee (1986); played Bennelong in the television series The Timeless Land (1980); and featured in many other Australian television productions. His performance in The Tracker (2002) saw him named Best Actor at the Australian Film Institute Awards, the Inside Film Awards and the Film Critics’ Circle Awards. Gulpilil’s further film credits include Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), The Proposition (2005) and the Yolngu-language Ten Canoes (2006), the idea for which Gulpilil developed with director Rolf de Heer. Some years ago, Gulpilil returned to his ancestral lands to subsist through crocodile hunting and fishing. His existence between Yolngu and balanda (European) cultures was the theme of his one-man stage show, Gulpilil, conceived by Neil Armfield and Stephen Page, which premiered in 2004. In 2013 Gulpilil was awarded the Red Ochre Prize, Australia’s highest peer-assessed honour for Indigenous artists. Amongst his recent films are Charlie’s Country (2013) and the forthcoming Storm Boy, in which he plays the father of the character he played in the original film.

Tracey Moffat’s playful photograph of Gulpilil was amongst the first ten acquisitions of the National Portrait Gallery.

Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.
Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Gift of the artist 1998
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program
Accession number: 1998.10

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